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Consumer Reports' Analysis: Drugs for Nerve Pain, Fibromyalgia Effective, But Not Always Best
Date:9/5/2007

Caution Urged In Use of Anticonvulsants, Especially When Prescribed 'Off-Label'

WASHINGTON, Sept. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Some anticonvulsant drugs are effective in treating bipolar disorder, fibromyalgia, and various kinds of pain, but the widely prescribed drugs are not always the best initial choice to treat those conditions and some of the drugs are quite expensive, according to the latest report from Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs(TM), a public information project of Consumers Union.

The report -- written for consumers and available free at http://www.CRBestBuyDrugs.org -- compares and analyzes 12 anticonvulsants. Scientific evidence backs only a few in treating the three disorders. That is significant because many of the 12 drugs are commonly prescribed "off label" to treat mental health and pain problems.

"This is a case where a class of drugs is widely used off-label to treat millions of Americans with assorted types of pain, emotional distress, and mental health problems," says Gail Shearer, project director of Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs. "But the evidence is either weak or non-existent that some of them help people or are the best drugs to use. Doctors and patients should be more cautious and deliberative in using these drugs," she added.

The anticonvulsants are also known as anti-epileptics. They were designed -- and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration -- primarily to treat people who have various kinds of seizure disorders, including seizures or convulsions caused by epilepsy, strokes, and brain tumors. Several -- phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Tegretol,), ethotoin (Peganone), and valproic acid/divalproex (Depakene/Depakote) -- have been on the market since the 1950s. But a "second generation" of anticonvulsants was developed in the 1990s. These include gabapentin (Neurontin), lamotrigine (Lamictal), pregabalin (Lyrica) an
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SOURCE Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs
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